US House committee advances China bill without Republican backing

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A general view of the US Capitol in Washington, US, April 22, 2021. (Reuters photo)

A US House of Representatives committee has advanced legislation aimed at boosting competitiveness with China without Republicans’ support.

In a 26-20 vote on Thursday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed the "Ensuring American Global Leadership and Engagement Act," or Eagle Act, with Republicans opposing it over some of its provisions.

Among the provisions included in the bill are ones that address issues such as China's alleged human rights abuses of the Uyghur Muslim minority in its Xinjiang region, closer ties to Taiwan and the need to provide special immigration status to residents of Hong Kong.

According to Republicans, the legislation requires too many studies and lacks meaningful action like tightening control of technology exports to Beijing.

Democrats, however, said they would not give in on provisions in the bill that pertain to climate, arguing they are essential to compete on green energy.

The measure would provide billions of dollars for the United Nations Green Climate Fund, which Republicans described as a "slush fund" for the world body.

The rivalry between the US and China has intensified in recent years with Beijing’s growing international clout and rapid economic progress, emerging as a viable counter-weight to the US.

The latest vote came as the administration of President Joe Biden and both parties in Congress are trying to push back against China's increasing international influence.

On June 8, the Senate passed its own China bill authorizing nearly $190 billion for provisions to improve US technology and research. They also approved $54 billion to increase US production and research in semiconductors and telecommunications equipment.

However, rather than vote on the Senate bill, various House committees have been writing their own bills, which means it will take months for the House to pass a bill equivalent to the Senate measure.

The Biden administration is also set to impose sanctions Friday on a number of Chinese officials over what the US calls Beijing's crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong.

The US and China are at loggerheads over issues such as Hong Kong and Taiwan, US military patrols and navigation in the East and South China Seas, and the coronavirus.

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